• John Lim

MF 266 : Building arcs into your podcast and best practices for recording

In this episode, we dive into arcs (beginning-middle-end) for your podcast and best practices for recording both solo and interview podcasts. More at www.bemovingforward.com.

Moving Forward is also available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Google Play, iHeartRadio, and Spotify.

Part 1: Building arcs into your podcast

As you’re planning your podcast, think in terms of a concept I call BME or beginning-middle-end. I talked a lot about arcs with the book-writing mini-series and the BME concept.

The same applies to your podcast. Recall in episode 262, I recommended that you start planning your show with the exit. This will put you in the BME frame of mind. Whether you decide to do 12 or 1200 episodes, your show will have a clearly defined endpoint.

From the E, build out the B and M. What does your show look like from the beginning? Are you on a journey? Perhaps you want to learn a new skill and you’re using your show as a platform to develop those skills. The B will be you starting with little or no knowledge. You may interview guests or share learnings and takeaways from books or classes you’re taking. As you develop your skill, you’re bridging into the M. The E will be a goal you want to hit. Perhaps it’s to become skilled enough to take on a hobby or start a new business or side hustle. Think of your show as a BME arc.

Within your show, each episode should also have BME arcs. Every episode should have a beginning, middle, and end. Whether you do a fiction or non-fiction podcast, a solo show, interviews or conversations, there will be a clearly defined endpoint. The endpoint may be a cliffhanger or it may lead to another episode, in which case the E is simply a marker. But think of your individual episodes within a BME framework.

For Moving Forward, I’ve used a simple BME frame. Back when the show was interview-based, I used the B as the background; getting to know the guest. The M was what I dubbed the “knowledge burst” section, in which I had the guest, typically an expert in his or her field, share tools and best practices. The E was a philosophical look at what lies ahead with parting thoughts to the listeners.

Today, as a solo podcast, I continue using BME. You’ll notice that I literally call out “Part 1,” “Part 2,” “Part 3.” These serve as markers for the BME within episodes. If you use arcs in your show, you’ll have a roadmap that will keep you on task and on track.

Part 2: Best practices for recording podcasts (solo and interview)

Let’s continue our exploration of the technical aspects to podcasting with best practices:

Solo podcasts:

  1. Stay within 2-3 inches from the mic to ensure the sound will be clear and loud enough for the listeners

  2. When you start recording, you may feel a little self-conscious. Take a deep breath and do a silent count to three after you hit record, before you start speaking. Taking a breath will calm your nerves and allow you to collect your thoughts.

  3. Our natural tendency is to speed up so try to slow your pace as you speak into the mic.

  4. Finally, if you mess up, keep going! Focus on getting better with each episode.

Interview podcasts:

  1. Pre-calls: some podcasters will schedule a call to get to know the guest and go over the show before the interview. I’m not a fan of this but some swear by it. It’s up to you but if you don’t have a lot of time, skip it and trust that you’ll do just fine simply doing the interview.

  2. Homework on guests: I did very little. For my show, the point wasn’t to show off how much I knew about the guest. As I got into the later seasons, I often didn’t have time to brief myself beyond the basics. Be comfortable with that. Use the interview to allow the guest to tell his or her story. The exception might be if you’re doing a highly technical show or diving deep into a specific topic, in which case, studying up on your guest’s work may be necessary.

  3. Before you begin (interview protocol/etiquette):

  4. Keep it brief. Don’t engage in a lot of idle chitchat. Remember, a guest is giving you their time. Respect it. Go over the basics and then start the interview and finish on time. If you have a rapport, you can always debrief or chat more after the interview. Besides, you don’t want to drain their energy or hear their best stories before you hit record!

  5. Names. Make sure you have the correct pronunciation of the person’s name. Ask if you’re not sure. Ask even if you are sure. Get this out of the way before you start the interview.

  6. Silence devices. Ask them to turn off or silence all device alerts. Do the same on your end.

  7. Interview. Let the guest know what the general flow of the interview is, the intended audience, and the anticipated time. Also let him or her know if there is room to go overtime if they feel like it.

  8. Airdate. Let them know the airdate especially if it will occur later (a few weeks or months). As you build up a guest roster, you may find that you have interviews scheduled out 2-3 months in advance so let them know when the episode will air. Also send a courtesy reminder right before it airs.

  9. Don’t forget to record! Ask if they’re ready to record and announce that you will start recording. Saying this aloud will let them know so they can get mentally prepared and it will also ensure you actually hit record. The last thing you want is to start the interview only to realize midway through that you didn’t hit record!

  10. Thoughtful pauses. Take a pause to consider what the guest says. This will give you a moment to follow-up with a thoughtful questions or move on to the next topic.

  11. Focused questions. Keep questions brief, open and avoid compounding.

  12. Clarify. Ask your guest to clarify terms of art (even if you know what they mean). Always think of your listeners.

  13. Don’t panic. When it comes to interruptions (dropped call, static) don’t panic. Simply call the person back or if there is an interruption, stop the interview, let him or her know and ask them to repeat the last part so you can edit it later.

  14. Courtesy. Thank your guest at the end of the conversation.

Homework

Continue practicing. Practice is the best way to crystalize your theme and topic and to acclimate yourself to interviewing or speaking into the mic.

Try out Libsyn for free with promo code: CAST

If you’re interested in trying out Libsyn, I am an affiliate. Go to Libsyn.com, pick a plan and use promo code: CAST to get your sign-up month plus the following month to try it out for free [Note: you cannot change your plan during the trial otherwise the billing will kick in so pick a plan with enough storage to try it out and if you decide to stick with it, you can adjust to a plan that suits your show’s needs going forward right before your free trial ends].

Part 3: What I’m reading

The Rooster Bar by John Grisham (***): a legal thriller about three law students attending a low-tier for-profit law school (often called a “degree mill”). They stumble onto a conspiracy involving the shadowy owner of the school after their classmate commits suicide. The students then decide to break a lot of rules. It’s a fun book with lots of twists and turns. A little uneven at times but entertaining and hits on a relevant current problem of too many law students, too many law schools and not enough jobs.

Books by John

  1. Check out my Amazon author profile for my new book Making Fake Star Trek.

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